Mesillas Yesharim: The Path of the Just – Zechirus
Ramchal writes that pertaining to the quality of zechirus, the trait of vigilance along the derech (path) of righteousness, one must first acquire an understanding through contemplation of what is good and evil, in order to make the right choices in life. Once clearly defined, then one can choose the good and avoid the evil. Moreover, it is not enough to have an abstract understanding of good evil; rather, the understanding should lead to application.
Therefore, one needs to scrutinize thoughts, speech and behavior, in order to make an honest assessment of oneself. If good draws us near to H’Shem, and evil will distance ourselves from Him, then this concept may be applied in the following manner: to ask ourselves, when in doubt, whether such and such will bring us closer to H’Shem or result in creating a separation. As is written, “Your iniquities have separated between you and your G-d” (Isaiah 59:2, JPS).
We may familiarize ourselves with the basic components of Jewish belief and practice; yet, the test of whether or not we are actually walking along the path prescribed for us, has to do with how we spend most of our time, what are presuppositions are, and whether or not we are consciously aware of H’Shem’s presence. Otherwise there will be a disconnect in our lives between our beliefs and actions; moreover, what ultimate value will our practice have, if there is a separate area of our lives that is not permeated by our beliefs?
Heshbon hanefesh, literally, an “accounting of the soul” can be used as a means to align our thoughts, speech, and action with G-d’s expectations of us, and rein in any area of our lives that has not yet been subjected to His sovereignty. This endeavor entails much reflection, and a constant dedication to the true good, designed to bring our souls closer to H’Shem.